Astro2010 Decadal Survey
The formation of planets is one of the major unsolved problems in modern astrophysics. Planets are believed to form out of the material in circumstellar disks known to exist around young stars, and which are a by-product of the star formation process. Therefore, the physical conditions in these disks - structure and composition as a function of stellocentric radius and vertical height, density and temperature profiles of each component - represent the initial conditions under which planets form. Clearly, a good understanding of disk structure and its time evolution are crucial to understanding planet formation, the evolution of young planetary systems (e.g. migration), and the recently discovered, and unanticipated, diversity of planetary architectures. However, the inner disk regions (interior to ~10 AU) most relevant in the context of planet formation are very poorly known, primarily because of observational challenges in spatially resolving this region. In this contribution we discuss opportunities for the next decade from spectrally and spatially resolved observations, and from direct imaging, using infrared long baseline interferometry.
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